November 17, 2020

Rachel Bloom

Weird is the new normal
Comedian, screenwriter, actor and showrunner Rachel Bloom adds “author” to her list of credentials with I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are, a collection of personal essays and hilarious tidbits from her life and career.
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Comedian, screenwriter, actor and showrunner Rachel Bloom adds “author” to her list of credentials with I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are, a collection of personal essays and hilarious tidbits from her life and career. We asked Rachel a few questions about theater, mental health and the difference between writing a book and writing for her hit TV show, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."


The title of your book, I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are, is interesting since, if you actually were normal (whatever that means), you probably wouldn’t have had your extraordinary career. Do you still want to be where the normal people are?
No, because *spoiler alert* there is no such thing as normal. And if I did consider myself normal, all evidence points to the fact that I would be a shallow and boring person.

You write candidly about your experiences with mental health, specifically obsessive-compulsive disorder. Why was it important for you to share this part of your life? What message do you hope to convey to readers about living with mental illness?
This was the most important thing for me to share because it’s the biggest example of me feeling out of place and completely alone. For many years I didn’t talk about this part of my life with anybody because I was really ashamed, and it weighed on me. So I always knew that, especially in a book about normalcy, this piece of my story was essential. The messages I hope to convey to readers are that you’re not as weird as you think you are and you didn’t do this to yourself.

You not only sprinkle excerpts from your childhood diaries throughout the book but also share screenshots of the diary entries. That’s some serious sharing. What would 13-year-old Rachel think?
She’d hate me.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are.


You cover a lot of topics in your book—from childhood insecurities to dealing with professional rejection to therapy. Are there any subjects you intentionally chose not to write about? Why?
Yes. Anything that reveals intimate details about people with whom I still care to have a good relationship, and any identifying characteristics of a few of the other people I talk about. I don't wish for anyone to be targeted, doxxed or canceled because of stories in this book. As far as that guy in 7th grade—yes, that is his real name, but it's one of the most common names in the world, so good luck finding him.

There’s a section in the book called “Normal People Choose Safe Careers.” What would your safe career have been?
Teaching—but I know how hard it is to be a teacher, so apologies to any teachers who are like “fuck you."

You say you’ve always been a theater kid. What was your best theater experience in high school?
I was in the musical Honk!, which is a musical about the ugly duckling, and it was the period of time when I fully found my group of friends and started to become way more confident as a person and performer. When Honk! ended, I actually fell into a mini-depression. I think I even said to myself, "The magic time is over."

What has been your favorite theater experience as a fan?
Hamilton. I know that sounds trite, but my Hamilton experience was as follows: I had just won a Golden Globe, and afterward I immediately flew to New York to do press. So I'd had no sleep and was incredibly emotional. I bought myself a single ticket to Hamilton for $800, and as the audience stood up at the end of the show, I started sobbing. I called my husband to say, “I cannot believe I’m seeing an audience react to a musical about history the way that people react to Star Wars. I never thought I’d see this. This is unbelievable.” I could not stop crying.

"There were long stretches of me putting stuff on paper and not knowing whether or not it was garbage."

You proclaim in the book that your celebrity cause is making amusement parks smarter. Now this is a cause worth taking on. I think your idea of a weed edible station would be extremely popular, and the “Get Born” Rapids that reproduce the birth canal experience is . . . interesting. How are you going to take this idea to market?
Well, I think it goes without saying that I need a billion dollars. So . . . do you want to give me a billion dollars?

You write fairly late in the book that “writing another book right now sounds like getting a pap smear in a World War I trench.” Was writing this book harder or easier than writing for your (amazing) TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”? What’s the biggest difference between the two?
They were equally hard in different ways. The hard part about the book was that I had no one to bounce things off of in the process of writing a draft. Once I turned it in, my editor was my unofficial writing partner on this book, but it’s not like I could read a chapter aloud to her to see what she thought. There were long stretches of me putting stuff on paper and not knowing whether or not it was garbage. And also, to be scientific: A book is a lot of words and a TV episode is less words.

You share several stories about being bullied in school in this book, including a particularly brutal incident in which a couple of popular girls convinced a boy to pretend he liked you. Have you gone back to any class reunions, and if so, did you bring your Emmy with you?
I actually missed my 10-year reunion because it was in the thick of season one of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," and I was just too tired, which is such a flex I guess. Not to be a downer, but high school was a lot better than middle school. So if I went back to a reunion, it wouldn’t be as triumphant as you’d like because, unfortunately for the sake of my own narrative, people got way nicer.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Love audiobooks? Check out I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are and other nonfiction audiobook picks.

Author headshot © Robyn Von Swank

Get the Book

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are

Grand Central
ISBN 9781538745366

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